Parents might have favourites, but ideally, they should not; and even if they do, they should not make it obvious. The truth is that favouritism should be avoided at all cost because this hurts a family in several ways and can be damaging. According to research and many psychologists, favouritism hurts and can cause damage to the children in the family. However, there are many ways to also manage this if you find yourself as a parent who has favourites.
According to Michele Levin, a family therapist, “It can be very common for a parent to ‘like’ or ‘vibe better’ with one sibling more so than the others.” She thinks it’s important for parents to know and recognize how those preferences can occur.
She explained that kids all have different personalities, interests, needs, and ways of expressing their needs. Kids dealing with other struggles, such as depression or anxiety, can sometimes exhibit challenging behaviour that makes them not as easy to be around as their siblings are.
“Often another sibling simply doesn’t have the same needs or struggles, or can become the peacemaker, which can lead to a perceived feeling of favouritism,” Levin said. Then there’s the case of children with medical concerns. Levin explained that these kids can sometimes require a lot of a parent’s time and energy. They may not be the favourite, but to the siblings who aren’t getting as much time and attention, the resentment can be very real.
The damage of showing favouritism in the family unit
The negative effects of showing favouritism are not just about the relationships between parents and their children. The relationships between the children might be affected as well. Although it is different for every family, Some siblings will notice it and feel bad or guilty and this might help them bond, while others will hold resentments or competitiveness.
For parents who don’t want their kids to grow up feeling separated from the family, taking action now to put an end to any perceptions of favouritism will definitely be the right move to take.
Some Important Actions To Take
1. Discover your child’s love language
Often times as much as parents try to love their children equally, the way it is expressed can be received differently. However, the other point to keep in mind is that some children may not feel loved at all if their parents aren’t expressing love in the way they need to receive it.
This is why finding out each child’s different love language matters a lot. This requires paying attention and spending time with each child alone. Sometimes the inability to understand each child’s style can lead to parents favouritism. In reality if one child is more difficult to raise than another, the parent can end up being harsher with such a child.
Another way to know their love language is to observe how they give love. This is because most times the way your child gives love is the way they desire to be loved in return. [Read more on How to Know Your Child’s Love Language]
2. Spend personal time with each child
From your busy schedule, create time to spend with each of your children one on one. Perhaps a Saturday morning brunch, or just a weekend afternoon trip to the shopping mall. Simple, but yet intentional. Initiate ways to be spontaneous. Surprise them with some special cuddle time, a drawing project, or even teaching them board games creates that desired bonding. Spend personal time with each child so that they each feel special.
3. Learn to listen and note things about your child
Do not always be quick to try and fix a child’s problem. Sometimes it is advisable just to listen and give a hug, rather than a solution. Together you can then figure out how you can help your child come up with their own solution.
Start a parenting journal and note how your child expresses love and some ways they want to be loved. Because you might just forget some moments; taking a quick minute to jot ideas down can prove to be extremely valuable!
Be more intentional. If you find yourself comparing one child to another, or prefer to spend more time with one child; you might be guilty of favouritism.
Parents sometimes innocently compare their children to try and encourage them to pick up good habits. However, there are many ways to encourage children to push themselves or pick up good habits from another sibling, without putting one child down. Every child has a gift and something they are good at, make it a point to praise them for their individual efforts.
In essence, Parents should realize that a little effort can make a big difference in building a close-knit family where every child feels loved and safe.
Read more about raising kind children.